Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), Supreme Court Rules on Interracial Marriage

Loving v. Virginia, involved a "non-white" woman and a "white" man, who fled to D.C. to be married, in order to avoid an anti-miscegenation law in Virginia, which prohibited the marrying of "whites" to "non-whites." The crime was a felony, punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison. Upon returning to Virginia, the police raided their house and prosecuted them for violating the statute. After being convicted, the couple sued, claiming that the law was  a violation of their Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Rights.

The State's argument was that since both "whites" and "non-whites" were treated the same under the law, it did not violate Equal Protection.

Marriage a "Basic Civil Right"

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the couple, stating that the laws were clearly racist, and served to perpetuate white supremacy. The Court held that the law violated both the Equal Protection Clause, and the Due Process Clause, stating that:

"Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival....  The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State."

It is because of language like that above that Loving is cited by gay marriage advocates.